Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Momo's Story

Stories about Liberia.
Being a storyteller.
Being His storyteller.

Those are all things have been impressed on my heart over and over again throughout the last six years. I have always believed that God sent me to Liberia to listen to the stories, and to bring those stories back to America and share with others. This blog has been one of my outlets, and you all have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of stories. Some stories make us laugh, while others bring us to our knees in tears. I don't always have the right words [or enough words] to say, and that's when I pray that the story  will simply be heard. Today I want to tell you another story.

This is Momo.
[Soko, Momo, Zinnah, Marthalyn, Small Ashley, Yatta and Naomi in front of their house]

If you have heard any of my stories, then I'm sure that you have heard about Momo. He is ORR's chief security guard, but really he is so much more than that! We call each other 'best friend'--we share secrets and clothes--no joke! We can tell each other anything, we can spend hours giving each other a hard time and we do alot of laughing! His family is my family--we've experienced birth, graduations, marriage, death and everything in between together.
[Momo and Marthalyn with Soko and Yatta on their wedding day]
When I lived in Liberia, Momo would come to my bedroom window every morning and greet me with, "Morning Asslee." If you know anything about me, you know that I'm so not a morning person...but Momo's 7am greeting was always acceptable. In the States, I have a post-it note beside my clock that says, "Morning Asslee," which serves as my pseudo-Momo greeting.
Momo is also the best example of a true servant. I have never met someone who tirelessly serves, comes running at anytime of the day or night, always has a smile on his face and literally puts his life on the line for others. He is also the best example of dedication, loyalty and joy! Momo has seen and experienced more than most of us could ever imagine, yet he has this uncontainable joy and child-like spirit. He really is the best!

[One big happy family with constant laughter]
Momo lives in a small two room house [that isn't his, has no bathroom or water source, and his children sleep on the floor] with his wife Marthalyn, along with his son (Soko), sister-in-law (Naomi), and daughters (Zinnah and Small Ashley). His other daughter (Yatta) lives in the neighborhood with their Auntie. He does whatever he can to provide for his family, but it's not easy! After he does his best to 'put food on the table' [they don't have a table], there's school fees, medical bills, diapers for a newborn baby, and clothes and shoes to take care of. It's a struggle!
[Momo and Marthalyn on the beach together]
I could write an entire book on Momo--he's a constant source of entertainment and full of Yoda-like quotes--but I'm sharing this brief story today because I'm asking for your help. Momo's family is packed into a small two room house that they don't own. Momo has always dreamed about having a place of their own, and I have always dreamed of doing my part to help them. Momo doesn't know how much longer they will be able to live in their current place, and is trying to purchase land and start the process of building a home for his family.

[Me and Momo with our one tomato]
Momo's story is a common one in Liberia--a devoted husband and father with so many needs and no opportunity to get ahead in life. Momo and his family are my family. He's been a driving force behind the community center (he did all the leg-work to find a place and I can't wait until he can learn how to read and write through our adult literacy classes!). He's the hardest working, most honest and most full of pure happiness person that I've ever met! Him and his family deserve this!

If you would like to be a part of Momo's story, please contact me. ANY donation amount is greatly appreciated--whether it's $5 or $50, it all adds up! I am just trying to do my part--to tell Momo's story and enable others to get involved. And of course, if you are unable to give, you can always pray for Momo and his family!

Will you please help me make Momo's dreams come true?!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I have a problem when it comes to unpacking. I've been home for four days now, and my floor is still covered in the contents of my suitcase. Last night jet lag hit me hard. I woke up this morning and felt exhausted, and now that it's 4:30pm, I'm still in my pjs and my head feels fuzzy while my body thinks it's living an an alternate universe. Combine that with the reality of being back at home, and all the while, Liberia almost feels like a dream.

Sometimes when I get home, unpacking is quick and easy. The evidence of my travels disappears soon after I walk in the door. Other times, the evidence lays strewn about my room for weeks, serving as a reminder of where I came from. I step over my passport or lay in bed and stare at my lime green suitcase that has yet to be returned to the attic. And I wonder if the last three weeks were simply a dream.

Physically, I'm not quite at 100%. There are foggy moments and my body feels drained. And then there are moments when everything seems normal and I'm fully present. I've gone through the stage of talking someone's ear off and being so excited about everything that God did while I was in Liberia. And then there's that stage where you just want to be left alone and you want life to be quiet and still. I left Liberia with so much motivation and with a renewed fire in my bones. It's hard to find that fire today when I'm not quite sure if I'm awake or asleep and I just don't want to do anything. And then I have periods of intense thinking, brainstorming and dreaming. The fire is there, I just need the jet lag to pass.

And then I make lists and think about everything that's going to be required from here on out...and my head can easily start to spin. So then I pull on the reigns, and focus on today...now...and what needs to be done.

What needs to be done now? Unpack, rest and lose the fuzzyheaded feeling. Remember and reflect upon the last three weeks. Be thankful. Spend time with my family. Kiss my nephew so much that he gets annoyed. Continue to dream about the green house. Enjoy the sunshine. Eat alot of salad. Continue to be in awe of what April in Georgia looks like--I feel like I'm living in Planet Earth--because I haven't experienced this is five years! Soak it all in.

I would absolutely love your prayers! You can pray for adjustment and also for strength, energy and rest. I know I'm about to start sprinting, so right now I'm storing up energy. There is so much that needs to be done--so much paperwork and accounting and lists and planning and sorting and problem solving and networking and brainstorming and figuring and talking and praying--and it's going to be a team effort! I will continue to share more of the dream, prayer requests and needs and I hope that you'll join me!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


It's difficult for me to sit here tonight and even begin to tell the story of the last three weeks. Words don't seem sufficient and I continue to shake my head and thank God. I feel like I've been away from all things America for a long time, yet I feel like my time in Liberia has been incredibly short [it's that weird Liberia time warp thing]. When I left Atlanta three weeks ago, I had no idea how things (and my life) would change!

I carried huge dreams here with me and wanted to do 'safe things' like window shop and do some market research. I had no intention to buy, that's for sure! As I waited in the bank for more than an hour this morning, I was sweating because none of the four air-conditioners were turned on. I was also nervous. Nervous to have to stand in front of a room full of people and count out over $4,000. Nervous because I knew what this money meant--a total life surrender. And today, I put a stack of 20 and 50 dollar bills down on a homemade cement table on the front porch, and slid it across, along with my life, for the next three years.

But for some strange reason, in that moment, the nervousness was nowhere to be found. In one sentence, I said something about "my house"...and then I could only think, "is this really happening?!" God provided the resources for me to come here. He knew I would find the green house. He knew that I was going to ask people to give. And He knew that people were going to be moved to give more than what was needed! He knew it all!

And little 'ole me had worry and doubt. It was easy to start second guessing. But, it was also easy to cling tightly to promises and remind myself of truths. I never imagined that I would be leaving Liberia with a place to call home for the next three years. I never dreamed that it would be a fixer-upper with so much potential. I found myself dreaming even bigger dreams just from walking through the house. I could see past the pepto-bismol pink walls in the living room and the trash-littered front yard. I could see a peaceful and welcoming garden with plenty of space for lives to change. I could see it all!

And so tonight, as I listen to the constant sound of waves crashing on the shore outside of my window, I am so incredibly grateful! I am thankful that God continues to provide! I am thankful that I'm able to leave Liberia even further ahead in this thing than what I expected. I am so grateful to the people who read my words, caught the vision and gave from their hearts! I feel your prayers and encouragement, but more importantly, I feel God's presence so immensely. He is here!

I am rejoicing, but I also know that the next leg of the journey has only begun. I am leaving Liberia ready to come home and tell the stories and share the dream. I'm going to be a fundraising fool! I need two more years worth of rent...and then there are things like setting up a home and creating a community center...all of which require resources. If I think about it too much, it makes my head spin. So I'm taking it one step at a time...and I'm warning you now that I'm going to need you with me every step of the way. Actually, I am inviting you to join the journey. This is one story that you want to be a part of!

I failed to realize that I celebrated my six year Liberia anniversary while I've been here...and the story continues! Thank you to everyone who has continued to be a part of the story! The story, God's story,
is only beginning!

Love in Liberia,

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things to Think About...

[My favorite place to think!]
Sometimes, you just need to think. You know what I mean?

One thing that I've learned about Liberia is that it is near impossible to find peace and quiet. Which makes it hard to think sometimes. I typically find myself thinking on the beach (when nobody is around...which is hard to come by sometimes) or in the shower. Yes, I said it.

I've been trying to think all day, but haven't found the time, space or amount of silence to think. So that's where I found myself tonight. Thinking about the dichotomies of this country in the shower.

How can you never be by yourself, but feel alone? How can your day so quickly take a turn? How can life look so different when we're all people created by God? These are the things I ponder.

There was nothing super spectacular about today, and there was also nothing terrible. The weather was good--not too hot, and a nice breeze--and I went about my day with a fair amount of ease. But there were moments that made me stop.

When I opened my front door this morning, and looked across the Atlantic. Breathtaking views, mighty waves, that salty breeze. Absolutely beautiful. This is my happy place.

And then you venture out onto the highway...the place where life happens. So many people, colors, sounds and smells. Women selling produce, babies taking baths, children walking to school.

A few hours later and I'm heading to an orphanage. My most favorite place in this country on a Friday afternoon--under the mango trees at Frances Gaskin.

But between leaving the house and driving less than 10 miles, there was alot to take in. Things to process and think about. Decisions to make. And that's when memories of my previous life in Liberia came rushing back.

You stop quickly at an orphanage to drop off some medicine. For a child that's burning up with fever. That nobody's taken to the clinic. And he's been this way for two weeks. He looks pitiful and you feel conflicted. You want to fix. Make things better and right. But you know that there has to be a sense of responsibility. You ask yourself if you're helping or hurting. You give money for the clinic, ask that he be taken in the morning, see the body language of someone who could care less, and climb back in your truck and drive away. It doesn't make sense, but you know you did the right thing.

You drive a few miles and see a crowd gathered on the side of the road in the distance. I've decided that a scene like this makes my heart stop. And today my heart stopped. You get closer and see the mangled motorbike lying in the middle of the road. And through the crowd of people you see a pair of white cloth shoed feet not moving. Thanking God that you can't see anything beyond that, but you hold out your hand and say aloud a prayer, "Jesus, Jesus, please be with that boy and don't let him be dead." And my stomach twists. And I take a deep breath. And we keep driving.

Within a few minutes, I'm at the orphanage, under the plum trees, baking with the girls. There is laughter, licking batter bowls and talk about the future. So much joy and contentment. I want to take a snapshot of every moment to carry home with me and pull out whenever I'm missing Liberia. Plums falling, dogs licking my butter covered toes, the charcoal burning in the coal pot that will bake our banana cakes, and just sharing life together.

Then I sit down with the director to talk about a missing child. Oh, my daughter Lucky. This home is not the same without her. My Liberia is not the same without her either. I've been praying for her for months, and praying in faith that I would come to Liberia and find her. And then there was that moment with the director when my heart dropped. When I realized that I won't be seeing Lucky while I'm here. And when my brain begins to comprehend that I might not ever find her. I hold it together, but tonight my tears fall. This is one of those hard moments, when you have to fully trust God and truly believe that He watches over each and every one of His children.

Tonight as I washed away the day's dirt, I was thinking about all of this. I asked God why things happen the way that they do. I asked God why He chose me to come here. Why Liberia? Why not somewhere safe, familiar, with my family, easy or comfortable? Why do I have to figure out how to operate in a place where things don't make sense, life is difficult, reality is harsh, faith is stretched, darkness breaks through, but Light overcomes?

And that's when God began to answer: I make sense. I am safe. I am with you. I chose you. I have equipped you. Delight in me, as I have delighted in you. I am the Living Water; your daily bread. I make all things new, and my mercies are new every morning. Joy comes in the morning. 

And I wash. And ask God for a clean heart and a clear mind. And I hold on to His promises.

I don't know why it's me, or why it's here. But I know that God's plans are the absolute best. And that's where I want to be--right in the middle of His good and perfect will.

And then it begins to make sense. That is why it is me. And that is why it is here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Green House and His Story

I'm showing you this picture tonight, because it's the next chapter of the story.

I've spent the last week playing House Hunters International (Monrovia, Liberia style), and it's been quite the educational experience. I've looked at everything from a brand-new, HUGE and beautiful 5 bedroom home to a simple two room row house. I've walked through empty spaces and envisioned and dreamed--laughter, learning, life together.

And then entered "the green house."

This house has 3 bedrooms/3 bathrooms, a living room, both an indoor and outdoor kitchen, a one car garage, a big palava hut (with bathroom), a huge and awesome yard, a generator house and a water tower (running water!!). It is right across the highway and one block back from the ORR house, so it's in the perfect location! And, compared to everything that I've looked at, the price is right! Also, Momo has known the owner since he was a little boy and vouches for the man, which speaks volumes!

Leasing in Liberia works alittle differently than in the States, so it's making things alittle complicated. You typically pay a full year's rent up front, but the owner has requested that I pay 6 months rent before I leave Liberia. This would guarantee that the place is mine. Then he wants the balance of the first year's rent in a decent amount of time after I get home. The house needs some work (and some deep cleaning!), but the rent money would go towards the repairs. With a one year lease, he will paint and clean the inside and outside, send in a gardener (it's like a out-of-control tropical garden!) and fix small things. If I sign a two year lease, he will replace the zinc roof with good quality zinc. If I sign a three year lease, he will use that money to complete the cement block fence (the back and one side are fenced, but the entire perimeter has a thick bamboo 'fence'). 

Please join me in praying about the green house being THE perfect place...God's perfect place! I have been talking alot with God, and I've asked Him to provide the finances for the half year rent before I leave Liberia. God has already surprised me--I have over 4 months of rent already spoken for! I need $750 more dollars...and nine days for God to do His thing!
Would you consider giving $5, $20, $50 or $100...or perhaps you'd like to give to cover a full month's rent?!

I'm asking Him for provision. I'm asking Him for miracles. I'm asking Him for BIG.

If you would like to make a donation, please leave a comment or email me! 
If you can't give now [don't worry, the rest of the first year's rent will be needed shortly], please just continue to pray that God's dream will become a reality here in Liberia!
[I'm trying to coordinate things so that only one money wire will be needed.]

Thank you all for being a part of THIS story! 
HIS story!